Stop the Time Suckers

Who doesn’t want to make better use of their time? We all have those silent time suckers that we don’t really think about, but all of us waste time every day. How can you can get a handle on it?  Here are some tips for you to make better use of your time and stop the time suckers.

It may sound boring, but you really have to set some goals for yourself first. Even if you start at a high level (more time with family, more exercise, etc.), just writing down some goals will give you a good start. Pick one and then break it down until you get to a daily goal. Start with one at a time for best results.

Most of us have a general idea of how much time we spend every day on regular tasks. Would you be surprised to find out that we are usually way off? We tend to think smaller tasks take longer, and generally underestimate how long it really takes for larger tasks. It really helps if you can get some accurate data around the actual time you spend doing things. Jot down how long your regular tasks are taking you to accomplish. Do this daily for about a week. You may be surprised that washing dishes doesn’t take as long as you thought, but making your shopping list takes much longer. Once you have a better idea of how time is being spent, you can budget your time and plan accordingly.

 

You can start making a plan for daily, weekly or monthly tasks. Use a paper or electronic calendar- whatever will work for you. You don’t have to stick to a strict schedule, but you want to have a general and realistic plan of what you can get done in set amount of time. If you think of something when you are running around, jot it down or put it in your phone so you can remember later and schedule time for it. You want to be flexible, but try to set a realistic start time that you can stick to- that way the rest of your day won’t be so pinched.

 

Even though it can be hard, you can learn how to prioritize. We tend to think every task is important and must be done right away. This is not possible. We can’t do everything at once.

Start with eliminating things you really don’t have to do. There are some things, such as paying bills or buying groceries, that we absolutely have to do. Set your priorities and work on the big things that MUST get done. The next layer would be important items that you have some time to work on. Do a little at a time and enjoy the moments when you accomplish something!

 

Don’t get stuck doing everything that anyone asks of you. Ask yourself if doing something is a good use of your time. Spend time with your family and friends instead of organizing the pantry. Don’t feel pressured to do everything! Also, ask for help if you need it and lessen the burden that is on your shoulders.

 

If you find yourself with a spare 10 minutes, think about 1 item you can knock off your list. It may be tempting to check your email again, but just do 1 thing and then allow yourself more time to relax at the end of the day. Also, if you find that you allotted 30 minutes for an item and it takes longer, just stop for the day and reschedule another time to finish the work. The next time you have to tackle the same task, just allow the more realistic time.

 

Make sure you allow time for breaks during the day, especially lunch or dinner. Whether you are at home, or in an office, you must have time to step away for a little bit. We are all tempted to just keep on working sometimes, but that does more harm than good. Recharging your mind will do a world of good for you and help your productivity when you resume working.

 

Reward yourself (reasonably, of course!) for a job well done. Schedule your free time for the weekend or even a mini-vacation. It is really important to have something to look forward to that you really will enjoy. A lunch with friends or movies with the family are both some fun things you can fit in.

 

To recap, be realistic and keep track of things you have to do. You can still have some flexibility, since over structuring is not really good, either. Once you have your goals and schedules you will find that you are using your time more wisely and put an end to all those time suckers!

 

6 Easy Tips to Organize Your Garage

Does your garage feel like a vast wasteland? Do you trip over things and still can’t find what you are looking for? The garage often becomes a catchall for things that we just don’t know what to do with. You can get organized without breaking your back or your bank account. Here are some tips to help you get your garage in shape.

Start Out Right

Pick a nice day to work on the garage since your best best is to empty out your garage, or at least a piece of it to start with. Anything you remove from the garage look at with a critical eye. What do you absolutely need to keep in the garage? How much room do you need for your cars? You will first have to empty the garage or at least a portion of it at a time. You will need to figure out what items you need to store in the garage, and whether or not you are keeping vehicles there, too. Get rid of what you don’t need, and then figure out how to store the rest.

Tooling Around

If you have hand tools, think about using a magnetic tool board. You can use any kind of board to start with, so it is an economic fix, too. Use a thick magnetic tape put across the length of the board. Any metal tools or supplies will attach to the magnet. This will really help organize your tools and is a space saver as well.

Look Up

One space that is often not used in the garage is right above the door. You can put a shelf up high which is great for seasonal items, including sports equipment you don’t use all the time. Anything you don’t need access to on a regular basis can go up high.

Garden Space

Are you a gardener? If you don’t have a garden shed then think about some kind of table space in the garage to organize your gardening tools and supplies. A dedicated space makes it easier to access what you need and to keep garden stuff in one area of the garage.

The Pegs Have It

Pegboard is very useful to add adjustable shelving or just hang up miscellaneous tools. Any outdoor, garden or even sports items can be stored on these shelves. If you need to change things around, shelves on pegboard are the easiest to move around and have the most flexibility of use.

Another cost saving storage solution is using metal garbage cans with lids. These garbage cans are great for storing things like rock salt, potting soil or sand. These containers seal tightly and can even store pet food. You don’t have to buy special containers at all.

These ideas are a good starting point to organizing your garage space. Once you get going you will probably think or more ways to make your garage more useful.  

6 Energy Myths- Busted!

We all want to save energy and money, right? Even with good intentions we probably fall into the trap of believing energy myths that we’ve heard for years. Here are 6 energy myths that you need to bust now.

Vents

Shutting a vent in an unused room is supposed to save money, but it actually does not work. The cool air or heat is just redirected to your other vents in the house. The air can also just leak out of any holes in ducting. The pressure backs up and can actually cause more wear and tear on your heating or cooling system. This will cost you money in the long run since your unit will not last as long as it should.

Space Heaters

Electric space heaters sound like a good idea, but do they help you save? The answer is NO. Electricity is generally more expensive than gas and the costs to run a space heater or two can be as much as heating your whole home with natural gas.

Solar

You might think that you can’t use solar if you don’t live in a sunny climate, but that is not true. You can still have your normal electric service, but build up credits when your solar energy kicks in. The sunny days will help you build up power and you can usually save quite a bit on your normal electric bill.

Windows

While double paned windows are more efficient, the cost of replacing your windows may not actually give you a great return on investment. The savings you get can depend on how many windows you have, where you live, and which direction the windows face. Replacing windows can get quite expensive and you can probably generate the same cost savings in other ways.

New versus Old

If you buy a newer house, don’t assume that it is automatically more energy efficient. While many newer homes do have energy savings features, not all of them do. Even if you are looking at an older house, it may have been updated with modern insulation, for instance. Always consider these facts when you are house shopping.

Getting Warm

Setting the temperature on your thermostat higher will not heat up your home faster. Your heating system works hardest when it first comes on. It is better to set your thermostat on a normal temperature and leave it alone. A programmable thermostat is a great idea, though, and can save you money. Just reducing your temperature setting by 1 degree equates to saving 1 percent.

 

Valentine’s Day goodies

This Valentine’s Day should be all about lavishing your loved ones with little luxuries. L’Occitane has you covered in this department! With Valentine’s gift ideas for him and for her, you really can’t go wrong with anything you chose.

Men’s gift ideas include fragrances, skincare and grooming products, such is this Eau des Baux Eau de Toilette or this Almond Daily Ritual Duo.

For ladies, L’Occitane carries a range of fine fragrances, luxury bath and body products, home fragrances, candles and gifts sets — all of which are superb gift ideas for women. We suggest the Divine Cream or the Roses et Reines Eau de Toilette.

New to the L’Occitane brand and not sure where to start? Now through 2/14, you can get this 8-Piece Shea Set for only only $20 with any $45 purchase. Use promo code COZY at checkout. The set includes 8 Shea Butter essentials, including Light Face Cream, Hand & Foot Cream, Extra-Gentle Soap, Shower Cream, Ultra-Rich Body Cream and a Sample of Comforting Face Oil.

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Chinese New Year 2017

         In 2017, Chinese New Year (sometimes called the Spring Festival) begins  on January 28th. It is the year of the Rooster In the Chinese Lunar Calendar. People that were born in previous Rooster years are considered to have an unlucky year.

         Celebrating Chinese New Year begins early and ends well past the actual New Year’s Day.  People start cleaning their houses in preparation around the 23rd of the month and family may start coming together the week before the actual holiday. Lots of workers in China will take off two to three weeks so they have time to travel to their hometowns.

            Chinese New Year originated as a break after farming and harvesting. The wish was for a prosperous harvest in the new year. Today people wish for a prosperous year in work and business, too.

      The Spring Festival focuses on family. The special Reunion Dinner (on New Year’s Day) is the most special meal of the entire year. Many generations of family come together during this important meal.

      Dumplings are thought to bring prosperity and wealth in the new year, so they are always served at the meal. Fish is also popular since it is believed that a person will get extra money in the next year if you eat fish.

               You will see a lot of the color Red during this time of celebration. Red is a traditional Chinese color and is said to bring good luck. People in China will be wearing red as well as decorating their homes in this color. Since it is the year of the Rooster you will also see rooster decorations.

          It doesn’t matter if you are in Shanghai or in small town, the celebrations will be big. There are always dragon and lion dances, as well as plenty of fireworks.

           Children and older folds get gifts during Chinese New Year. You must use a lucky envelope (red of course!) to tuck away small money gifts.

           Even if you are not in China, you can celebrate. Have a family meal, wear red, and give small money gifts in red envelopes. Welcome the Year of the Rooster!

      Gōngxǐ fācái!

           

 

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5 Reasons you Need a Will

 

shot of someone signing a contract. Focus is on the signature and the end of the pen.

You may not think so, but having a will is one of the most important things you should have on your to-do list. You don’t want to leave your family and estate at the mercy of your state. It is worth the time to decide what you want – not the state.

When you have a will you get to decide how your estate is handled.  Making these decisions now can save your family headache and prevent disagreements among family members.

Here are 5 reasons you need to draw up a will:

1. Think of your children

It is important to have a will if you have children that are minors. It is a hard decision, but you will want to designate a guardian for you children in the event of your death. You don’t want the courts to decide the fate of your kids.
2. Lower estate taxes
You want to lower any taxes on your estate as much as possible. The value of anything you gift to family or charity organizations does reduce the overall estate value used to determine any estate taxes due.
3. Choose who takes care of your estate
You will need to choose an executor of your will. The Executor ensures all your affairs are in order. The executor will pay off bills, send notices to your banks and financial organizations, and cancel credit cards, just to name a few of the executor’s duties.ds, and notifying your bank.
4. Shorten Probate
All estates have to go through some kind of probate process, even with a will in place. However, if you don’t have a will the process can be lengthy.
5. Donations and gifts

A will gives you the ability to donate to your favorite charities or gift friends and family some of your assets. This is a very personal way to let others know you thought of them.
Is a basic will good enough?
If you don’t have many assets and are under the age of fifty then a basic will should suffice. You may not even need an attorney for this type of will. If you have many valuable asset or any complex business issues, then you probably want to get the advice of an attorney.
A basic will still covers many of the reasons listed above, such as leaving your property to people you choose, naming your children’s guardian and identifying your executor.
Does a will cover it all?

There are some areas that a will doesn’t cover, so be aware of these.

Funeral directions- These cannot be covered in a will so make a written document with your wishes and let your family know about it now.

Shared Property/Insurance — a will won’t cover living trusts or money from life insurance (anything that already has a beneficiary.) If you share property with someone else, then this property is not included, either.

Estate Taxes- You can’t avoid taxes, but some trusts can reduce or postpone when taxes are due

Probate- Even with a will, there is still probate which can take 3-12 months to get through

Pets- While you can name someone to have your pets, you can’t actually leave money or property to an animal

Special Care- If you have someone in your life that you want to make sure is covered for long-term care you will have to get a special needs trust. Setting up this trust through an attorney can ensure that person has income without impacting any government benefits they are entitled to.

While every situation is different there is one thing we all have in common- the need for a will. Spend a little time now thinking about it and you can have some peace now.

Spring Clean Your Life!

 

Enjoying the nature

 

We are all probably ready for spring and the warm weather and flowers blooming. Spring might also bring to mind Spring Cleaning. Some of us dread it, some of us love it. While it is great to get your home in shape, what about the rest of your life?

People

You may not think about people when mentioning spring cleaning. Spring is a time for change and blooming. If there are people in your life that are negative or holding you back, it may be time to sweep them out of your life for good. While this may sound harsh, do some soul searching. There might be that one person that you just don’t need to hang around with any longer.

Social Media

When was the last time you cleaned up old pictures or posts on your social media accounts? Maybe you have photos that looked fun but now are embarrassing. Delete, delete! If you are in a different place in your life, let your new posts and pics reflect that. Get rid of pictures with people that are not in your life- who needs a reminder of that ex you dumped? Make a fresh start.

Music and Media

Have an Ipod or store a lot of music on your tablet or laptop? It is probably time to shake your selections up a little. Get rid of the songs that you always skip over or really don’t like that much. Make an effort to try something new and download some upbeat songs. Maybe clean up your playlists or make new ones. Get a new groove on while working out or something to keep you motivated at work.

Unwelcome Gifts

You probably have a drawer or closet with gifts or old cards from your exes. Why keep this stuff? Even ticket stubs from fun events don’t need to clutter up your life. If you aren’t going to make a scrapbook, either take a photo with your phone or just trash it.  Anything with a bad memory you need to dump, now! Even good memories stay in our minds, and we don’t always need to keep a physical reminder.

Now that you’ve done some spring cleaning in your life you will feel like a weight is gone. Maybe you have the energy now to tackle that spring cleaning around the house, too!

7 Foods to Start Freezing NOW!

Young woman looking for some snack in fridge late at night.

I am sure you are a frugal shopper and meal planner, and you already are smart about freezing certain food items. There are lots of foods that can be stored in the freezer, but here are some that might surprise you!

Nuts

Nuts go bad quickly and if you are not going to use them right away, go ahead and freeze. You can freeze nuts in the shell or shelled. For walnuts, peanuts, cashews, pecans, macadamia nuts, almonds or hazelnuts, just wrap them tightly with plastic wrap before putting in the freezer. The same goes for nut butters, too.

Bacon

Freezing bacon is great, especially if you need to chop up for recipes since frozen bacon will be easy to cut. Place a few uncooked bacon slices flat on waxed paper and wrap up. Then put this into a freezer bag and you are all set!

Yogurt

Did you stock up on yogurt and now it is expiring? You can freeze yogurt, but you won’t want to eat it that way. Use the frozen yogurt to make a yummy dip. You can also use it in sauces.

Coffee

If you love iced coffee, there is nothing better than adding some frozen coffee cubes to your drink! Just pour any leftover coffee you have into any sized ice cube trays and you can have a special treat later!

Ginger

If you love cooking or baking with ginger, then freezing it can make your life easier. Leave the ginger whole and unpeeled, use plastic wrap around it, and then place in a freezer bag. When you want to use some, you just take the frozen piece of ginger out and scrape off what you need- no defrosting needed!

Cheese

While cheese will not slice well after being frozen, it is still great to use in recipes. If you use a lot of shredded cheese for casseroles, just grate the cheese before you stick it in the freezer.

Garlic

You can freeze garlic in whole heads, break apart, or even chopped up. The easiest way to freeze is to leave the garlic whole. Store in a freezer bag or container. You can easily take off a clove at a time. Garlic does have a different consistency after freezing, but should be fine for cooking.